Foremilk V Hindmilk is a HOT topic and conversation on mommy blogs, social media and in breastfeeding spaces. There are so many questions that arise…
Which is better? Which milk does your baby need more? How can you ensure the proper balance of both? What is the best way to ensure your baby gets BOTH during a feeding? It can be dizzying the amount of information you can read on this topic. Sometimes the details and breakdown can lead to confusion and misinformation.
So first let’s examine these two terms to bring some clarity to this conversation. Foremilk and hindmilk are BOTH breastmilk. So it’s not two separate types of milk but rather that these terms define milk by location in your breast and at different times of a feeding session. Foremilk is the beginning of a breastfeeding session or the milk stored in the ducts towards the front of your breast close to your nipple. Hindmilk is the milk at the end of the feeding or the milk further back in your breast stored in the milk factories known as alveoli. Foremilk is milk that has been collected in the ducts since the last feeding ended. This “leftover” milk from the previous feeding is diluted as more milk is made and the milk sits in the ducts. This milk sits in the ducts and these ducts are the small tubes that travel to the end of your nipple and when the baby sucks the milk drips/flows out of your breast. This milk is the first in line and sits for the longest amount of time but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good or that your baby doesn’t need foremilk. This is the milk that is released when your milk ejection reflex is triggered. It hydrates the baby quickly to ensure your baby makes enough wet diapers throughout the day. It may look thinner or more watery because it is lower in fat concentrations than hindmilk. Although, that doesn’t mean this milk is useless, it carries essential vitamins and proteins that your baby needs. Hindmilk on the other hand is stored further back in the breast in the milk making centers known as (alveoli). Since this milk is stored closer to the milk making cells the fats stay mixed better which is why the fat content is up to 6% more in hindmilk. These fat concentrations are what gives your baby’s poop diaper the yellow seedy/curd appearance. It is also so interesting that not only does the location of milk change the fat content but the time between feedings impacts the fat concentration. This is because the longer the milk sits the more the fat has a chance to stick and settle. So it is not just location in the breast but how long the milk has been in that location. Many parents get concerned with frequent feedings and they think this means the baby isn’t getting enough hindmilk. However, in an ideal world if the baby is draining the breast well you actually end up with fattier milk. This is because the milk is not sitting in the ducts for a long time becoming more diluted.
How do you get baby the perfect mix of foremilk and hindmilk?
All parents want to know the ideal ratio of BOTH. The secret sauce is simple: a deep effective latch combined with on demand feeding is what gives your baby the perfect balance. A deep latch makes sure your baby has access to drain as much milk as possible. When they drain milk from your breast well they will get the watery hydrating milk and the creamier fat filling milk. On demand feeding is simply offering breastfeeding when the baby shows early hunger cues. When you feed on demand your baby sets the pace for making sure they get what they need. When at the breast and baby has a deep latch they drain when they need to and stop when they are done. Sometimes they may do a short feeding, maybe they just needed to hydrate. Sometimes they may feed on both breast and then latch again 30 minutes later, they got to that fatty creamy milk and they are coming back for thirds. Remember that in 24 hours your baby’s needs can change so much and the beautiful thing about your breastmilk is it changes TOO! So don’t stress about perfect rations or balances…get deep latching mastered and get your baby to breast often so they can determine their perfect ratio to thrive!
Thanks for stopping by! For more information about the composition of breastmilk, you can join us in our Confident Breastfeeding Courses.
Aubri Lutz, RN, IBCLC
Breastfeeding and Human Lactation 4th edition
The Nursing Mothers Companion 20th edition
New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding- American Academy of Pediatrics 2nd edition